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Known for its flamingos and once dubbed "the cleanest town in East-Africa", Nakuru, Kenya has lost a lot of its past glory. Particular environmental concerns are caused by the inter-relation between Lake Nakuru National Park and the residential and industrial expansion. This situation is aggravated by the fallen standards of urban services, requiring a new approach towards urban planning and management. The local authority's civic attitude and its willingness to collaborate with community groups, NGOs and industrialists form a foundation which the Localising Agenda 21 Programme intends to strengthen and expand.
Nakuru town is located 160 km North west of Nairobi and is the fourth largest urban centre in Kenya after Nairobi, Mombassa and Kisumu. It is situated at an altitude of 1859m above the sea level and it is within the region of the Great Rift Valley whose formation gave rise to a unique natural structure. The town started as a railway station on Kenyan-Uganda railway at the turn of this century. The name 'Nakuru' is derived from Nakurro, the Maasai word meaning a 'dusty place'. The town is located in an environmentally sensitive area. It is sandwiched between Lake Nakuru National Park to the south and the Menengai crater and its associated volcanic landscapes. Further to the North East of the town is the Bahati Escarpment forming the western fridge of the Aberdares Escarpment. Unstable geological zones experiencing frequent local geological faulting characterize the western zone of the town. The most affected area of the Municipality is on the western side of the Central Commercial District around Ngata, Kiamunyi, Rift Valley Institute of Science and Technology.Nakuru population has been growing at the rate of 5.6% per annum. From a population of 38,181 in 1962, the population reached 163,927 in 1989. Nowadays, Nakuru is the fourth largest town in Kenya (after Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu), with a 1999 population of 289,385(GOK, 2000). By the year 2015, the population is projected to rise to 760,000, which is approximately 50% above the present levels. The population growth has been influenced by the birth rates, rural-urban migration and boundary extensions. There is rapid 'urban' development at the periphery of the town because many people take refuge in those areas as a result of shortage of housing in the town centre. Most of these settlements take place in areas expropriated from agricultural uses by use of subdivision plans. This makes planning complex, especially as residents 'demand' inclusion in the municipal boundaries and they benefit from urban services, which are being overstretched beyond their limits. Majority of the population live in unplanned settlements that are not served with municipal services and the quality of the environment in these neighbourhoods has been falling.
The major economic sectors of the Nakuru urban economy are: commerce, industry, tourism, agriculture and tertiary services. The commercial sector in Nakuru contributes about 19% of the economy of the town. Within the Central Business District (CBD), retail activity occupies 26%; wholesale has 10%, the informal sector enterprises 18% of all the commercial activity space. The most dominant forms of business in the Nakuru economy include: retail in hardware, general wholesale, outlets for agro-industrial machinery, motor vehicle trade, spare parts and servicing the agro-chemical retail and wholesale outlets. There is a significant network of financial institutions providing banking, insurance and credit services to the business community.
Nakuru's industrial development started when the first agro-industries were started in the 1920's. Currently there are well over 100 industrial establishments including grain milling and storage, processing of cooking oil from agricultural raw materials, agro-chemical production, soaps, blankets and dairying in the town. There is currently a decline in manufacturing but a level of growth in industrial retailing of finished products.
The economy of Nakuru is largely dependent on the rich agricultural hinterland. There is an increasing growth in small-scale agricultural activities within the metropolitan area. This is mostly located in the peri-urban areas of Bahati, Kiamunyi, Engashura, Kiamunyeki and Mwariki where sub-division of large farms into smaller holder portions is rampant. The presence of key natural features such as Lake Nakuru, Menengai Crater and archaeological sites such as Sirikwa holes and Hyrax Hill gives rise to tourism potential in Nakuru. The town has a vibrant economy based on broad sectors such as commerce and trade, manufacturing industry, service and tourism, agriculture and forestry, and informal trade and industry.
Housing is the largest user of space in the municipality. From a provider perspective, there are two categories of housing: public and private. The former comprises of housing stock by the government, its corporations and municipal authorities for staff accommodation, and council rental housing. The latter comprises of housing stock developed by individuals for rental purposes or for their own habitation. There are at least 6956 public housing units within the town, 5434 of which are owned by the Municipal Council of Nakuru and 1522 by the central government departments and corporations (MCN/BADC/UNCHS, 1999). The rate of growth in the public housing sector is minimal. The private sector is the largest provider of housing in Nakuru town. Apart from government leases, the sub-division of large farms (owned by co-operatives and land buying companies) avails land for formal and informal private housing development. The rate of house formation in this sector is high but has been declining in the recent past. It is estimated that a majority of Nakuru residents are tenants.
There are numerous typologies of housing in the town. These include flats/high rise type, maisonettes, bungalows, semi-detached, terrace housing, row housing and informal housing typologies. Private housing offers a wide range of housing typologies. The spatial structure of housing and settlements in Nakuru has evolved from racially based differentiation to a zoning based on socio-economic status. This tends to correspond to densities of development with high-income areas generally having low densities while low-income areas having high densities.
It is estimated that the majority (87%) of Nakuru residents are tenants while a significant 13% own and occupy their own units (DURP, 1998). Owner occupied housing has lower plot coverage and tends to create relatively lower densities. Owner occupied housing is minimal in low-income settlements. Private housing offers a wide range of accommodation types including formal and informal single rooms in the low-income settlements, bungalows (Milimani), maisonettes (Kiamunyi) and flats. Formal private housing for high and middle-incomes is well served with water, sewer and septic tanks and electricity. Private informal housing in the low income settlements face a number of problems such as poor planning, inadequate support infrastructure such as, roads, drainage, garbage collection, water, security and electricity.
In the low-income neighbourhoods, environmental hazards are increasing. These areas have inadequate water supply, poor sanitation and garbage is rarely collected. There have been several outbreaks of diseases in these neighbourhoods as a result of the deteriorating environmental quality. The area to the west has a geological fault line running through the estates of Kaptembwa and Kwaronda causing soil subsidence in the rainy season resulting in deep gullies. Apart from the poor private housing in Kaptembwa, Kwaronda and other areas, the council public housing is in dire need of attention as it is uneconomically managed and in condition of disrepair. The inter-linkage between urban activities and the need to protect the lake and the park further complicates the planning of the town.
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